I’m a content marketer, yes, but I’m also a dog-mom who is planning a bachelorette party and moving into a new apartment.
A fresh thought pops into my head every 30 seconds: the toiletries I need to buy, whether I booked a dog-walker for the right dates, or if I used the right credit card to pay for my bridesmaid dress.
Needless to say, my mind is a mess, and there are times when yours probably is, too. That’s why many project management professionals use mind mapping. This visual thinking strategy allows you to take the thoughts from your mind and organize them into a digestible chart.
Mind mapping definition
A mind map is a visual chart that separates and connects ideas through branches. Users start the map with generic keywords and, as the chart continues, the terms become more specific. The purpose of a mind map varies. Some use it to improve memory as they study for a test, or try and retain important concepts. Others may use it for analysis as they try to understand literature or political ideas.
Let’s talk more about this concept so you can decide if this strategy would work for you and your brainstorming hours.
What is mind mapping?
As I mentioned earlier, a mind map is a visual chart that separates and connects ideas through branches. Users can start the map with one generic theme and, as you brainstorm further, develop smaller branches with more specific terms.
The purpose of a mind map varies. Some use it to improve memory as they study for a test, or try and retain important concepts. Some may use it for analysis as they try to understand literature or political ideas.
Example courtesy of SimpleMind
Others still may use it as a brainstorming technique, a method of “idea vomiting” into a visual to plan out a hiring strategy, content calendar, sales playbook — you pick. There really are no limitations to what we can map.
How do we begin? Let’s discuss the steps involved in creating a mind map.
Start at the center
While others start at the beginning, mind-mappers start in the middle.
To begin a mind map, you must first have to come up with a very general theme or overarching strategy. What question are you trying to answer? What problem are you trying to solve?
Say you’re the event coordinator at a school and are in charge of brainstorming the various fundraising events you’ll put on that year. The main “theme” or objective of this map would be to brainstorm “fundraising events.”
So, unsurprisingly, the center of this mind-map might be labeled, “Fundraising Events: School Year 2019-2020.”
Create branches of related ideas and assign each a keyword
The branches from the center of your mind map should be more specific than the overall map theme. Draw branches out from your center and assign them a keyword.
Following the school event example, the event planner may choose to brainstorm events by season. In this case, the keywords for these branches could be, “Fall,” “Winter,” “Spring,” and “Summer.”
It’s important you have clear, concise keywords associated with each branch so you’re able to easily remember how you organized your thought process.
Visually differentiate branches
Color-coding branches is one easy way to split the map up into digestible sections. This tells you and anyone else reading the map that the orange branches are different from the blue sections.
Minds are very complex, and it’s easy to get important information garbled up in our brains. Many of us function better with visuals to help guide our eyes, and it’s no different with a mind map.
Connect smaller thoughts as “twigs”
The purpose of a mind map is to start with a general concept and work your way into the nitty gritty. This is where the ideas really start flowing, and where you should feel free to let out anything and everything that comes to mind.
Let’s take the earlier example and focus on the “Winter” branch. You would draw lines out from this branch and start ideating what kinds of fundraising events you could put on during the winter.
Some fitting “twigs” for this section of the map might be:
Snowball fight or snowman-building competition
Holiday market selling hand-crafted goods
Family night at the ice-skating rink
Caroling and cocoa
Indoor potluck with diverse plates
Remember that an aspect of mind-mapping is assigning branches and twigs concise keywords. Instead of writing out the aforementioned phrases on the map, it would be more visually cohesive to say things like, “snowball fight,” “market,” and “ice-skating,” on each twig.
You can write up the elongated descriptions in a formal document, but keep the map short and sweet for reference.
Add visual elements
One common practice is to provide visuals or imagery within your mind map. This fundraising example is easy — the seasons have very common visuals associated with each of them, and it wouldn’t be hard to throw a couple of trees or snowflakes into the document. Unfortunately, some topics are more difficult to associate images with.
While the images take more work, it’s a good idea to include them if you’re trying to mind map for memory. It has been proven that image association can make it easier to remember things.
Images are also a good idea for anyone who plans to present their mind map in front of a class or boardroom.
All mapped out
You should choose to create your mind map with whatever method best suits you. Some people love to draw and would enjoy creating this map by hand. Others need a guided experience and might benefit more from mind-mapping software. If you fall into the latter category, idea management software is there to help.
Now that you have the map, go and get your treasure! This tool can be used to study for tests, suggest budget changes, or ideate activities for a summer camp. There are no limits to your mind, and the map is no different!
Want to discover if a project is right for your team? Learn how to conduct a feasibility study.
Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, worked in Chicago, and is now a proud New Yorker. (she/her/hers)